One hundred and fifty thousand naira! One fifty- whole- K! I paid that much as damages at the restaurant before the security men were ordered to let me leave the restaurant. The manager, with his silly, eager-to-please smile, suggested that I have a psychiatric evaluation done. At that point, I was past anger and shame. All I felt was exhaustion.
As I drove to Grace’s I tried to avoid thinking about all I had lost for the fear that I might lose my mind in the process. Even though the restaurant’s manager’s manner was rankling, I couldn’t help seeing some merit in his observation. I sincerely started to question my sanity. Could Dosunmu have actually killed his own brother? Even if he did, would he breathe a word about it to anyone? Even if he would say it, he wouldn’t just volunteer the information… Even if he wanted to volunteer such information, would he do it in a public space like a restaurant? Was I just imagining things? Was my mind playing games with me?
I was grateful that I wasn’t going over to mine. I wasn’t sure I could survive a night alone with the flood of thoughts in my heart.
I stepped into Grace’s house to find her standing in the living room, praying. She turned to me and embraced me.
“Where did you go, Sola? The children were worried. They slept worried.”
I couldn’t speak past the lump in my throat. I stayed in Grace’s arms and wept. She stroked my hair and told me it’s fine. After letting me cry out my heart, she led me to her room and listened as I spilled my guts. When I was done, I heaved a long sigh.
“You’ve been through this before. You should know by now that anger is not the weapon to war with.”
It was a swift reprimand and it hurt me.
“I just heard that my husband was murdered by someone I considered family; I should be angry.”
Grace nodded. “I agree. I like the way the new living translation renders Ephesians 4:26, it says we shouldn’t sin by letting anger control us. Anger is an emotion, just like fear or any other and it’s totally normal to feel an emotion. But as believers we are not meant to let emotions lead us into sin. We stay led by the spirit of God. All that shattering of glass and breaking of plates wasn’t necessary.”
I let out a self-depreciating laugh. “I learned that the hard way. I paid through my nose before they even let me out of the restaurant.” I paused. “I’m just tired.”
“Now is the time to fight back. It’s time to fight right. Using our spiritual weapons that are mighty through God. Capable of bringing down strongholds and every high thing that rises against the knowledge of God.”
I shook my head. “I don’t even know how to fight this time.”
Grace smiled and reached for her Bible which was between her pillows. She passed it to me. “Psalm 18: 33-34.”
I flipped to the scripture and read it out loud. “He makes my feet like the feet of deer, And sets me on my high places. He teaches my hands to make war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.” I looked up at Grace.
“God himself will teach your hands to make war. He will grant you the sure-footedness of a deer so that even while you climb up slippery slopes you won’t slip for the Lord will hold you by the hand and be your guide.”
I looked back at the scripture, feeling strength rise up gradually within me. Indeed, the word of God is powerful. I closed the Bible and sprawled on the bed.
“Tell me, how were you able to cope after the divorce?”
Grace chuckled. “Did I cope?” She sighed and shook her head. “When Dimeji started asking for a divorce, I thought I could adjust myself into changing his mind. I thought it must have had something to do with something I was doing right, something I wasn’t doing well enough. And so, I did all I could to keep him. I tried to do everything right by him. I prayed.
But then, there is only so much one can do to keep a man who isn’t interested in being kept. At this point, Dimeji already had another family in Abuja. Discovering this broke me totally… I actually, I didn’t discover it, Dimeji threw it in my face.” Grace stopped as a single tear dribbled its way down her face. A broken sob escaped her throat. I shifted close to her. I was shocked at this sheer fact that my friend had such hurt under her strong, spiritual, ‘fireful WOG’ skin.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know it was this deep… you don’t have to talk about it.”
Grace smiled and sniffled. “It’s fine. After the divorce, everyone in my local church just saw me as a divorcee and nothing else and everyone miraculously had the same word for me: God hates divorce! Go and make your marriage work. Now I know that it was all the Devil’s devices but then it just felt like no one actually cared about my soul. All that mattered was that my marriage had failed and so I had failed God and the faith. When I could take it no longer, I moved from Jos to Lagos.”
“Wow!” I exhaled. “So, when you got to Lagos you found a community of believers who loved and accepted you?”
“I wish it was that straight forward. I was bitter against God. I stopped going to church and started on a journey of rebellion. I became an alcoholic. I randomly hooked up with different men. It was crazy. Every day, I just rolled anywhere the billows of life tossed me until one day when I got tired of everything and I said a prayer for the first time in over a year. The only thing God told me was ‘I’ve been waiting for you, daughter’. He still called me daughter! He waited for me!”
I smiled, a glass of tears in my eyes. “Oh, the love of the father.”
“It broke my defenses. I began to see myself as God saw me. I wasn’t just a failure who couldn’t keep a man, I was his beloved, the apple of his eyes.”
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I nodded. “I’m not just a helpless widow. I am a royal priesthood, a burning and a shining light!”
“Halleluyah!” Grace sprang to her feet. She started praying in tongues. I stood up too. We continued praying. Before long, Dosunmu’s words started returning to my mind. Anger started distracting me. Grace grabbed my hands.
“Let’s pray! Every machinations of the Devil is brought to naught in the name of Jesus!”
I snapped out of the thoughts of Dosunmu and his words and continued praying.
All that front of niceness Mama was putting up was a sham! That woman is nothing but a snake! She was well aware of the fact that Femi was killed by his bro-
“Pray! Pray! Pray!”
I smiled, turning my attention back to prayers. This woman called Grace.
I made conscious effort to focus my heart on the prayers. As I did, words from scriptures were being fired into my heart.
“I and the children the Lord has given to me are for signs and wonders! We dwell under the shadow of the almighty! Deyemi is seated with Christ in heavenly places, therefore, he can’t take up any seat from the Devil. Oh yes! Devil you have lost! You have no hold over me and my home! By the help of the Holy Ghost, I take up my place as a gatekeeper. I stand on my watch. By my God I leap over wall and I run against a troop.”
I continued praying in the Holy Ghost, as I did, I sensed a burden on my heart. I couldn’t place it just yet. I continued praying, deliberate to be vigilant in the spirit. And then, I saw a picture of Moses and Tola standing apart. Between them was a vicious beast, prancing and digging a gulf. Grace’s voice cut me out of the revelation.
“I sense God wants us to pray for a couple. I don’t know who…”
“I do. Moses and Omotola. The enemy is ravaging their home.”
Grace nodded. “Satan is fierce in his attack against homes for he knows how much the Lord can achieve through a home founded on the rock which is Christ. But right now, we are going to resist the Devil over this home. We are going to agree in prayers and rebuke the devourer over this home!”
We held hands and interceded for Moses and Tola’s home until the burden let up.
We were giving thanks when broke into a vision. I saw Deyemi walking down a dark alleyway. The alley was lined on either side with highwalls that had frames on them. Each frame hung underneath a column of skulls. The skulls were without the topmost part, the calvaria. The men whose pictures were framed stood by their portraits. They were all clad in suave suits and tuxedos and they all had dollar bills sticking out of the breast pockets of their suits.
Deyemi got to a column of skulls without a frame and a man. He stopped. I saw Dosunmu hand him a calabash. Deyemi took it. He paused for a few seconds, hesitant and then he thrust the calabash at Dosunmu.
“Greater is he who is in me than he who is in the world!” He declared.
“Drink it.” Dosunmu’s voice was gruff.
Deyemi took the calabash with both hands as though he wanted to drink from it. Suddenly, he poured the palm wine on Dosunmu’s face.
I snapped out of the vision and returned to the consciousness of my physical environment, where I was praying in tongues and Grace was singing her worship to the Lord. Deyemi rushed into the room.
“Aunty Grace… Aunty Grace.” He saw me and ran to me. “Mummy, you won’t believe what just happened.”
“I know, I know,” I bent and hugged him, hearty laughter flowing through my mouth. “I saw it.”
“Jesus is powerful! Greater is he who is in me than he who is in the world!” Deyemi was awestruck.
I held a fist over my mouth and nodded repeatedly. It was overwhelming.
“Does anyone mind to share the testimony?”
I looked up at Grace and smiled. It dawned on me the true reason why Dosunmu told me everything he told me. He wanted me to be angry. He wanted me distracted so that I could be out of the way while my son was being taken from me.
“Satan, you’ve lost.” I mouthed.
“Now and forever.” Grace added.
I left Grace’s house early the next morning with my children because I had to get them ready for school and also get ready to resume work. I feared that nature’s revenge for keeping a vigil will have me dozing at the office. It would be totally ridiculous to return from a leave only to be sleeping at work. I took a cup of coffee for breakfast. I needed the jolt of caffeine.
Finding an official outfit that fit was difficult. It occurred to me that I was already showing. My baby was now ready to tell the world of his/her coming. Eventually, I settled for a plain blue gown that had erstwhile stayed abandoned in my wardrobe for being oversize. I stood before the full-size mirror in my closet, rubbing my bump.
I walked down the hallway, heels clacking, with my PA in tow. She was giving me heads up on all that had been going on in the office while I was away. As we walked towards my office, I was forced to make brief stops to say hello to my co-workers and endure trite condolences. Why don’t people get it? I don’t need ‘sorry about your loss’! But then again, they were only well meaning and so I had to smile and say thank you in spite of myself. When I got to the office. I sighed and dropped my bag on the table. I said a brief prayer and went to sit behind my desk. No sooner had I opened the file my PA proffered, than my intercom rang. I picked it up.
“Good morning, Mrs. Morris here…”
“The manager wants to see you in his office.” Fiona cut in.
I closed the file and walked to the manager’s office. More condolences but the part that bolstered my spirit was when he said they were going to give me a raise. Oh boy! Was I glad?
“I understand that supporting the family all by yourself could be challenging and so as an extension of the company’s goodwill, it’s the least we can do.”
This is how to lift the spirit of grieving woman. Money. Who ‘sorry for your loss’ help? I smiled, amused at my own inside joke.
“Thank you very much sir. I really appreciate it.”
I rose to leave.
“Is that a bump I see?”
I chuckled. “Yes, it is.”
“I’m happy for you.”
“Thank you very much sir.”
When I got back to my office, I met Rogers perched on the edge of my desk. I recognized the glimmer in his eyes. I laughed and shook my head.
“Sola, I’ve got gist.”
“Rogers! Won’t you even at least offer condolences first?”
Rogers obsession with chatter is something that I don’t think I’ll ever understand, especially because he comes across as the alpha male. I guess it’s part of the dividends of working as a hairstylist. But hey! I’m not complaining. He keeps me entertained during lunch hour and he knows better than to demean people in my presence.
“Abeg jare.” I laughed. “Just keep that gist in the warmer, I’ll have it with lunch.” I winked at him.
“So, did Saliu deliver?”
Saliu. Am I ready to go there? I decided I wasn’t and so I nodded and let out a grunt as I walked around the desk.
“Shebi I told you that he’s good. It’s just that he likes money. He works for the big guys sef.”
I picked the file my PA left and gently tapped it on the table. Rogers got the message.
“See you at lunch hour.” He stood up and made for the door.
I wanted to ask him what he meant when he said Saliu works for the big guys but then, I let it go. One question is all it takes to offset a chain of gist from Rogers’ bank. I had work to do.
After weighing my options, I printed the documents and burned the videos into discs. I had all the materials from the ‘to nail AA’ file mailed over to a YouTuber who seemed particularly interested in uncovering the dirt of Nigerian politics. I needed someone that brave and daring. I stuck with Moses’ advise and sent the parcel anonymously. The day I sent the parcel, I called Moses and asked to catch him at his office at closing hour.
I joined him in his office.
He smiled. “Mrs Morris the justice fighter.”
I laughed and did a mock salute.
“What if this YouTube guy doesn’t run the story?”
“I left him a note saying that if he doesn’t run it in 48 hours, it will be sent to someone else. Think of all the eyeballs this story will pull to his channel and how many subscribers he could get off it at no cost at all. I don’t think he’ll want to pass up on that. Moreover, his history shows that this is his kind of content.”
Moses nodded, impressed. “You are very much like FM.”
“I take that as a compliment.”
“It is.” Moses looked away, wistful. “This place has not been the same without him.”
Silence stretched for some seconds.
“How are you and Tola doing?” I asked.
Moses smiled. “We are doing very well.”
I sighed. “I’m concerned about you guys…”
“Why? We’re good.”
“…I discussed with Tola.”
Moses’ smile disappeared. A vehement flash came into his eyes.
“Let me guess, she just told you I’ve refused to touch her, yeah?”
“Did she remember to tell you of her stupid addiction to porn?” My eyes dilated a little. “Aha, exactly what I thought. I’m sure she also left out the part where she looked me straight in the eyes and told me that I never make her feel the thrills those idiots on her phone make her feel.” Moses’ hands were trembling now. His jowls twitching with every word. “I’m sure she didn’t tell you of how filthy a dog she is.”
“Actually, she said nothing about all of that… She only mentioned that the both of you agreed to have an open marriage.”
“Oh,” Moses uttered as he leaned back. Awkward silence followed.
Moses rubbed his palms together, restless. His hands still trembled. Something deep-seated in him had been stirred.
“I will never touch that thing!”
Something bothered me. “But you two were dancing together the other night.”
He chortled. “She’s chosen to live in a bubble and act like all is fine with us. I’ve chosen to also play along.” His eyes were dangerous. “But she doesn’t know what’s coming at her.”
“What do you want to do to her?”
“Oh nothing. Her obsessions are already leading her to her doom.”
“Are you planning to divorce her?”
“And give everyone the impression that my marriage failed?” He scoffed. “We stay together and stay apart.”
“But you love her, don’t you?”
“She chose porn over me. We are over.”
“But you’re not filing for a divorce because of your ego?”
He didn’t respond.
“I know she hurt you deeply, but have you tried communicating your pain with her? Are you just going to let silence be the gulf between you two?”
“Look, I’ve found someone else who respects me. A person who doesn’t think videos are better than me.”
I sighed. “Moses, God wants to restore your home.”
“Well, I don’t want it restored. I’m done talking about this.”
The next day, the YouTuber uploaded the video. In 5 hours, the video had garnered three hundred thousand views. Clips were taken from the video and shared on other social media platforms. #arrestAderile and #justiceforgirlsinLibya were trending on tweeter. A whole buzz was being created around the subject and in the midst of the buzz, my phone was ringing itself off the table. No credits for guessing who the caller was.
“Please tell them to take down that video.”
I frowned. This wasn’t what I was expecting Saliu to say. Didn’t he want justice for his cousin? I decided to play dumb.
Saliu let out an expletive and the force with which he released the single syllable convinced me that a trajectory of spit went with it. “You know what I’m talking about. Did you have the system backed up? I thought… Damn you, Sola! You’ve finished me!”
The line disconnected. I was confused. I shrugged it off and returned to what I was doing on my computer. It was satisfying to know that I had at least contributed my quota to the fight against corruption. My phone rang again. I picked up the call, angry.
“Hold up, it’s Moses.”
I sighed. “Sorry about that, Moses.”
“I’ve just seen the video trending everywhere and I must say, I’m proud of you.”
I smiled. “Thank you, sir.”
He laughed. “You are welcome, ma.”
“How about our discussion the last time? Mo-”
“That’s not up for discussion again.” The cordiality was gone from his tone. “Not now or ever. Good bye, Sola.”
I dropped the phone and sighed.
“Jesus, there’s nothing too bad for you to fix. Save Moses and Tola’s home.”
I was standing alone in a vast field. I looked around at the expanse of verdure and suddenly, a bird swooped down and struck the centre of my head with its beak.
I woke up with a start and with the pain from the bird’s attack- although from my dream- rippling right from the centre of my head. Fear gripped my heart.
“Jesus already won for me. I am victorious.” I dispelled the fear by reassuring my heart of God’s word.
I lay back to sleep. As though to mocking my confidence in Christ’s finished works, the dream was repeated. I woke up with the pain again.
“Satan, you have no right to bother my sleep. You are not getting my attention and you’re definitely not getting my peace. I rebuke you in the name of Jesus!”
I went back to sleep.
The flapping of the strong wings of the bird blew chilling breeze over me. I looked up, enshrouded in goosebumps. The bird was swooping down on me again, except that this time it wasn’t coming straight down. It was angled towards my torso, beak poised, as it barreled down, to strike my distended midriff. It came down in a flash.
The beak never reached my abdomen for I grabbed the bird firmly by the neck and stopped it midway. The bird let out a squawk of protest. I held it even more firmly and tipped its beak till its eyes met mine.
“It’s a foolish risk to attempt a child of God.”
The bird squawked in reply. I smiled. The bird thrashed, its wings and legs flailing. I held on even tighter.
Snap. The bird’s neck broke.
The bird let out a long stretch of squawk that lingered in my ears seconds after I rose up from my bed. I smiled.
“Thank you, Jesus.” I rubbed my baby bump. “My soul has escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowler. The snare is broken and my soul has escaped. Deyemi’s soul has escaped. Sandra’s soul has escaped. My baby’s soul has escaped. All because of what Jesus did.”
As I worshipped, I knew there was going to be a physical result of what had happened in the spiritual. After praying and studying the word, I went right on to get breakfast ready and then get the kids through their morning routines.
When I entered my office, I met Rogers waiting with the familiar glimmer in his eyes.
“I thought we agreed to save banter for lunch break.”
“This one can’t wait.” He didn’t give me a chance to protest. “You know I told you Saliu sometimes works for those politicians, yeah?”
I hesitated. Politicians?
“He has met his waterloo.”
“He worked for Aderile once before and now that Aderile’s shit has hit the fan, he knows it’s over for him.”
My head was spinning. Saliu was working for Aderile? He wanted to use me to cover Aderile’s tracks while deceiving me that he was trying to get justice? My thoughts overshadowed the rest of what Rogers said.
“…Guess what he did?”
“He killed himself.” Rogers blurted.
“What?” I blinked.
Rogers shifted closer, clearly enjoying my intrigue. “He sat in his car, powered up his windows and ate his gun.”
My bag dropped from my hand. But I had even more awful news on the way.